1 - 7 The Gospel of God
1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called [as] an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about [the] obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called [as] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
V1. Romans is the first letter of the New Testament. If you have just started your journey to read through the Bible with Romans, you have made a good choice. In it you’ll discover how God saw you while you were unsaved and how He sees you now that you know Him as your Savior. This knowledge will give you assurance of having made the right choice. You will still have to learn how to walk on the Christian pathway, but at least you will know the pathway itself is correct.
Paul (as inspired by the Holy Spirit) was chosen by God to speak to you about this pathway in this letter. In verse 1 he tells what he is going to talk about – the gospel of God. The gospel you accepted was not devised by man, but it went out from God. It is His gospel.
V2. In the past God spoke of this gospel through His prophets. You can read about it in the Old Testament, called “the holy Scriptures” in verse 2. During the time of the Old Testament, God tested people repeatedly to see if they would serve Him, but they failed each time. Finally, God made it known that He Himself would act. This happened when He sent His Son.
V3. The contents of the gospel of God are centered in the Son of God. It is the gospel of God “concerning His Son”. This gospel is not a religion, but rather about a Person with Whom you now have a living relationship through faith. Much can be found regarding the Son of God in the Bible. You can only begin to grasp the real meaning of any portion of Scripture if you are able to see what it has to say about the Lord Jesus.
Verses 3-4 mention two things regarding Him that are important to be able to understand the contents of this letter. Firstly, He was “born of a descendant [lit. seed] of David”. As the Son of David, He was entitled to the throne of Israel in Jerusalem. Since Israel has rejected Him, His ascent to the throne has been delayed. In Romans 9-11 you will see how God will fulfill all the promises He made to David.
V4. Secondly, what is spoken of the Lord Jesus comes from the rejection of Him by His people, Israel. He, Who as Man died on the cross, has “declared”, that He also is “the Son of God with power” when He rose from the dead. That He is Son of God with power not only was made clear by His own resurrection, but already during His life on earth, when He raised up other persons who died. Think of Lazarus, the young man of Nain and the daughter of Jairus.
His resurrection from among the dead (since everyone else has remained dead) was “according to the Spirit of holiness”. This is an important addition. Everything the Lord Jesus did during His life was in total agreement with the Holy Spirit. Since all was in harmony with the will of God, we know He committed no evil in His life.
But in the three hours of darkness He certainly did come into contact with evil. He was made sin and bore our sins in His body. Therefore God judged Him for our sins and gave Him the wages of sin, which is death. When He rose from the dead, the Spirit of holiness could unify Himself completely with Him since all sin and wrong deeds were completely judged by Him. If you can now see Who the Lord Jesus is and what He has done, it will not be difficult to acknowledge Him as the Lord of your life, as Paul says at the end of verse 4.
V5-7. Paul was so impressed by this Person that he wanted to go out to all nations to bring people into obedience by faith in Him. I hope something will radiate from your life and mine, both in our words and deeds, so others will come to obedience by faith in the Lord Jesus.
Now read Romans 1:1-7 again.
Reflection: Tell God in your words Who the Lord Jesus is to you.
8 - 15 Paul’s Longing
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. 9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the [preaching of the] gospel of His Son, is my witness [as to] how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10 always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you [while] among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
V8. “First, I thank my God.” One of the first things Paul conveys in almost every letter he wrote is to thank God for the believers. We live in a world full of unthankful people. We even allow ourselves to become influenced by this thankless attitude and forget that God knows of it. This is why He often reminds us in the Bible to give thanks. Giving thanks is an expression of joy and happiness. We thank God for things we receive from Him because we know He only gives us good things.
I once read of a man who fractured his spine during a fall and ended up in a wheelchair. At first he cursed God for it, but after he was saved he said, ‘When I stand before God’s throne, I will thank Him for breaking my back. If God would have let me live the way I was living, I would have gone to hell.’ The things God does will at last always make us thankful. Have you ever thanked God for your brothers and sisters? You certainly know some believers. You now belong to them. Your former friends have abandoned you, but others have taken their place.
V9. Paul heard about the believers in Rome because their faith was being spoken about in the whole world. The thoughts that occupied his mind were connected with their faith. His spirit and his thought-life were saturated with one thing: serving God in the preaching of the “gospel of His Son”. If you have just been saved, many thoughts of your previous life may still occupy your mind. This is why it’s good to think on things that have to do with the Lord Jesus.
V10-11. Paul longed to go to the believers in Rome. He had never seen them, but he was interested in them. He constantly remembered them in his prayers. They needed encouragement and he could give it to them by imparting “some spiritual gift” to them.
V12. After this he immediately presents an explanation: “That is, that I may be encouraged together with you [while] among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” We also need this strengthening of our faith. This is why we should seek to come together and share the experiences of our faith with each other. It is a comfort for both, and it doesn’t matter where you or the other believers are in spiritual growth, whether newborn or mature. This was true of Paul and the Roman believers. Paul had much experience in the faith, but was still able to receive comfort from the believers in Rome who had fewer experiences. So visit your fellow believers; you need them and they need you.
V13-15. Paul had often wanted to go to Rome because he wanted to have “some fruit” among them. He wasn’t looking for glory, but was indebted to God because He had called him to this service and responsibility. He could only discharge this debt if he fulfilled his service by preaching the gospel. But didn’t these people already know the Lord Jesus? Yes, but the gospel implies more than preaching repentance and faith.
The word gospel means good news. It’s called “the gospel of God” (verse 1) since the heart of God is expressed in it. God has much more to say to us than: ‘Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus.’ In fact, it is not until we have repented from our sins that we are capable of discovering all He wants us to know from His heart.
It’s good for us that Paul wasn’t able to go to Rome since he then wrote this letter to the Christians there, and therefore we can now be better acquainted with the gospel he wanted to preach to them.
Now read Romans 1:8-15 again.
Reflection: Thank God for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Mention their names to Him.
16 - 21 The Gospel Is the Power of God for Salvation
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.” 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
V16. Have you ever felt ashamed of the gospel? I have! I think the reason for this is we haven’t yet fully realized the active power of God in the gospel. We pay too much attention to what people think because we are more concerned with their reaction towards us. But haven’t you discovered the effect of the gospel: salvation for lost people? Don’t you believe this? You have become a partaker of this salvation through faith. Maybe in the past you tried to earn your salvation by living as good as possible. At some point you had to acknowledge that man has no strength in himself to be saved.
V17. This doesn’t mean God comes to assist a person in his attempts to be saved and that He will cause the good things to outweigh the wrong things. The gospel shows that if God saves man by faith and not through his efforts, He does this in a righteous way. This is the meaning of the expression “righteousness of God”. The righteousness of God is one of the main themes of this letter. This phrase means that God is righteous in His deeds.
At this point it is sufficient to know that the power of God and the righteous deeds of God have saved you. So your salvation isn’t dependent on how you feel, nor is it a requirement for you to feel a certain way.
Having faith in God’s plan of salvation is the key to receiving His salvation, and as long as you live on earth you will live by this faith. This faith (or belief) doesn’t have a sense of uncertainty that people often associate with the word. Faith in the Bible refers to steadfast trust. Faith is therefore a firm confidence in God and a steadfast trust in Him who has done all for you to save you. He will also do all for you to guide you safely through this life until you are with Him.
V18. How vitally important it was to be saved! “The wrath of God.” These are striking words! How many people contemptuously ridicule the thought of the wrath of God! This wrath is revealed against all forms of ungodliness. It is ungodly to ignore God. This wrath also comes on all the unrighteousness of people who hold the truth in unrighteousness. These are people who claim to know the truth, but manipulate it for their purposes. Therefore God includes them among those against whom His wrath is revealed.
V19-21. The awful part of it is that man doesn’t pay attention to “that which is known about God”. No person could have apprehended anything concerning God unless He had revealed it to man. In creation, the work of His fingers, God made visible His eternal power and Godhead. Every rational person must conclude there is a God because of the wonders of what he observes around him in creation. The fact that there must be a God should lead him to glorify and thank God. However, the sad result is that he who shuts God out of his mind lapses into foolishness (such as evolution) and loses any light of the origin, the meaning and purpose of life. Their foolish hearts are darkened. What can be expected of such people?
Now read Romans 1:16-21 again.
Reflection: Ask God to help you not to be ashamed of the gospel.
22 - 32 Mankind Without God
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; [they are] gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
V22. These verses would not impress you with the greatness of man. Attempts are often made to get us to believe that people are basically good morally and everything is getting better. The opposite is true, and God bluntly says so. He honestly describes (maybe this is why it seems stern) how deep mankind has fallen after turning their backs on Him. What God says here was true of both you and me before we accepted the Lord Jesus as our Savior. It is a description of the way we lived.
God didn’t create mankind in wickedness. Genesis 1 says: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). This includes mankind, but when a person abandons his connection with God, he is given over to himself by God. We read this phrase three times in this portion (verses 24,26,28).
V23-27. When people abandon the glory of the incorruptible God and replace Him with something else that looks like a perishable man or animal, God gives them over to it. He then gives them over to uncleanness in the lusts of their hearts. You can see the result of it all around you. People who change the truth of God into a lie are given over by God to degrading passions: homosexuality among both men and women. Today this is called an alternative lifestyle that we should accept. Rather, we read here that this is a judgment of God; they receive in themselves what they deserve for their error. If the creature is honored and served above the Creator, then this is the result.
God created man to honor and serve Him. God has instilled this within the very nature of mankind. The ability to attain to true humanity only comes when mankind lives for God. If he does, he will experience the greatest of joy and happiness. This was what God desired when He created man. But if man doesn’t act accordingly, God gives him over to a life of abnormal relationships as Paul has described here. We can see this more and more around us, and the unnaturalness of it is openly denied. It is considered wrong to say anything against it, and we are supposed to accept it as normal or perhaps face prosecution for discrimination. This is how the truth of God is being changed into a lie within the so-called Christian western countries.
V28. The third time God gives people up to themselves and how this happens is described in this verse. Since they push God out of their thoughts, God gives them over “to a depraved mind” or perverted way of thinking. This is why they begin to act disrespectful.
V29-32. At this point quite a list is summed up. You may recognize with shame some things you also have done. All you gained was “death” (verse 32) rather than the satisfaction and pleasure you expected. All these things are present in man’s heart and revealed in his deeds when he lives without considering God. He produces, for himself and others, things that must only be reckoned as dead. There is nothing good toward God in these things. Deep down in their hearts they know what God thinks about these things, but they don’t care. They live their life as they please, and express their agreement with others who live the same way.
Now read Romans 1:22-32 again.
Reflection: Tell God that He is right in His judgment of mankind.